Fwd: [permaculture] Heavy metal issues

Marimike6 at cs.com Marimike6 at cs.com
Tue Oct 22 11:14:06 EDT 2002


John (Schinnerer, MA)---

This sounds like a good idea, dispersing toxic metals so that the 
concentrations disappear. It has been said before that "the solution to 
pollution is dilution".

The only problem is that we've been doing this for so long that the 
completely diluted metals are becoming a pressing problem. Up in 
Massachusetts I assume you have recommended limits on the amount of fish you 
consume. I know we do here in North Carolina. This is because of our national 
reliance on coal-fired electrical generation plants. Along with the sox and 
the nox (sulphur and nitrogen oxides) you get a lot of mercury going up the 
stack in a large coal plant. The particles become rain nuclei. The rain drops 
that fall on your garden put the mercury there for a while, but the runoff 
from that portion of the country that is built up and paved runs into the 
river, from whence it goes to the sea.

It bioaccumulates in the fatty tissues of fish and becomes concentrated as 
one goes up the food chain. We are at the top of the food chain, and so 
should not eat too many fish, which would otherwise be a very healthy food. 

The only long-term solution is to sequester it by some process where it can 
be recovered and sold to mercury-using industrial plants for re-use. The 
economics of this are generally unfavorable, but if someone is found who is 
willing to pay the price (in an ideal world, the US Govt) the means are not 
that difficult.

The sensible place to collect it would be in stack scrubbers on the coal 
plants. But if you read the papers, getting Big Coal to obey the laws now on 
the books is slow going-- as is writing new, better laws. 

Going the other route, if you have a big pile of contaminated soil you want 
to grow vegetables on, there are grasses and other plants that will 
accumulate the mercury, cadmium, lead or whatever. It could then be burned in 
a small scrubber at your local landfill to recover the tiny amounts of toxics 
for recycling.

That is the theory, and will some day come to pass. The reality today is that 
these processes have to be researched in universities willing to fund the 
project. Papers must be published. State governments (forgetting the federal 
level for the moment) have to become interested, and legislation proposed 
that will enable pilot projects to get off the ground. Right now is not a 
good time because all the states, except North Dakota and a couple of others, 
are currently broke. But one day soon it will be a good approach to explore, 
as the states are in fact very concerned over lead, mercury and other toxics 
pervading their environment.

In the words of the great sage, "with enough money, all things are possible!"

Mike Elvin
Fuquay-Varina, NC
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From: John Schinnerer <eco_living at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Heavy metal issues
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